Finally, When It All Goes Right

Right-Left Punch
Photo by Seth Wang, AP
I think at this point, we can all safely say that we have seen what the 2010 Mariners look like when it all goes wrong. It is ugly. We have read plenty about how it happens, and what would make it better too. Most of all, it has been depressing to watch, and has been so bad that it has likely sunk the season.

The 2010 Mariners, after showing their worst side far too many times so far this season, finally have showed their best the past two nights. Sure, this team is bad a little too often, but when it is not, it is spectacular. This isn't a normal bad team.

How do the Yankees feel right now? They are in the argument for best team in baseball, and play exceptionally well at home. They also play in the most competitive division in baseball, where winning at a high rate is a must to stay in the hunt. Given their position, the lowly Mariners should have been one of their best chances to breathe easy.

Instead, Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez put their spikes in New York's throat, and never let up. Quite literally really, as both went the distance in memorable performances. Lee's outing was subpar (by his epic standards), but Felix was in awe-inspiring control. The Yankees not only have lost the first two games in this series; they never had a chance.

Arguably, the M's offense got a little lucky facing a version of Phil Hughes on too much rest, and a disappointing Javier Vazquez. However, they scored seven runs in back-to-back games, and still the headlines are about the pitching. That says all you need to know about how good these performances were.

For the season, the Yankees are the better team. However, for the past two nights, they have been owned by the Mariners. Some of that is just the nature of baseball, but much of the credit should go to the Mariners. It is probably too little, too late to save the season, but at least we finally saw this team at its absolute best.

Teams will have bad and good stretches. We had seen the bad. Finally, we see the good, and it came out in New York against the defending World Series champions. This is the kind of prize teams in the midst of lost seasons rarely get to savor, partly because most bad teams do not have an upper end this high. Consolation prizes are always bittersweet, but this one is awfully sweet.

Old But Good

Jamie Moyer
It seems that the predominant overnight reaction to the Russell Branyan deal is "Why?" It does not make sense for a team out of a pennant chase to give up younger players for an older one.

There are exceptions though, and we do not have to look very far to find one.

Back in August of 2006, the Mariners traded Jamie Moyer to the Phillies for Andrew Baldwin and Andrew Barb. At the time, the Mariners were clearly out of the race, Moyer was on the wrong side of 40 years old, and Baldwin and Barb were in low levels of the minor leagues. This was a classic trade deadline kind of deal. Presumably, the Phillies were mortgaging small pieces of their future to bolster their 2006 team.

Fast forward to today. Moyer is still with the Phillies, and has been worth roughly 6 WAR for them over his tenure (I am guessing some on how much WAR he provided in 2006 for them, because I can only find his WAR for that entire season). He is now crowding 50, but is still a serviceable pitcher.

Andrew Barb got cut by the Mariners years ago. He never made it out of the low levels of the minors. Andrew Baldwin is in Tacoma for his third season, where he has posted mediocre numbers at best. He is now 27 years old, and is yet to make a major league appearance, or even get on the 40-man roster for that matter.

Oh, and furthermore, the hole left by Moyer in the M's rotation was filled by signing Miguel Batista as a free agent.

Again, the whole point of trading Moyer back then was to gain pieces for the future. However, long-term, Moyer has proven to be significantly better. With the advantage of hindsight, it is easy to see that the Mariners would have been in better shape for the foreseeable future if they had kept around the 40-something southpaw.

I bring this up now because of the Russell Branyan deal. Juan Diaz is totally cut out of the Barb/Baldwin cloth. Ezequiel Carrera is better, but not by leaps and bounds. The trade the Mariners made last night to get Branyan back is constructed similarly to the Moyer deal years ago, except this time around the Mariners are the ones acquiring the veteran.

Now, I just admitted that the M's gave up more in this deal than they acquired with Moyer. Furthermore, Moyer has stayed a serviceable pitcher much longer than I think anyone envisioned. The overwhelming odds are that Branyan does not provide the same kind of production for the Mariners that Moyer has given to the Phillies, and I also think it is likely that Carrera and Diaz provide more value to the Indians than Barb and Baldwin have given the Mariners.

Still, nobody doubts that the Mariners are a better team today than they were yesterday. Sometimes, good players stay good for a little while longer. Often, marginal prospects do not pan out. Branyan could end up impacting the Mariners long term as much as the prospects they gave up could have. We will not have that answer for several years, but the precedent is there.

The Muscle Is Back

Russell Branyan
Well, the Mariners made a trade, just not the one most have been speculating about. In fact, nobody had really speculated that they were on the brink of acquiring Russell Branyan from the Indians for Ezequiel Carrera and Juan Diaz.

First of all, I am an unabashed Branyan fan. He isn't the best player in the majors, and he has his obvious holes, but nobody hits more majestic blasts. Nobody. He's just awesome to watch, and I've definitely missed watching him hit this year. The Mariners have missed his thunder as well, but for no longer.

Carrera is an outfielder that the M's acquired last year from the Mets in the epic J.J. Putz for half a roster swap. He had a killer year in AA, and has been steadily heating up in Tacoma this year. At best, he becomes a speedy leadoff hitter that sprays line drives with a good eye and good defense. At worst, he never squares up the ball as a big leaguer, which would pretty much completely kill any hitting value he could provide. There's no doubt that Ezequiel has very limited power, which makes him a questionable prospect. With Michael Saunders, Greg Halman, and Carlos Peguero in the system, as well as Guti and Ichiro locked in place, Carrera was expendable.

I don't know a ton about Juan Diaz, other than he is a shortstop in advanced A ball, and his hitting numbers are solid, as many are in the High Desert hitting paradise. He didn't hit before hitting the desert, but that includes a stop in the pitching friendly Midwest league, and it's reasonable to assume he has developed with some seasoning. Still, with Nick Franklin and Carlos Triunfel in the system, Diaz hardly leaves a gaping organizational hole.

Back at the major league level, I wonder what this move does for Casey Kotchman. He is blocked for good now, though he does have value as a defensive replacement. Personally, with Branyan back, I would keep Ryan Langerhans around and cut Kotchman loose. I think having both of them on the bench for good is redundant, especially with how little Don Wakamatsu uses his bench.

I wonder what this move does for Cliff Lee as well. My best guess is nothing. At last year's trade deadline, the Mariners made a serious push for Roy Halladay, while also trading away Jarrod Washburn. Jack Zduriencik is fully capable of buying and selling. Clearly, all that matters to him is that the price is right. What this move probably indicates is that the Mariners will hold on to Lee if they don't get the price they are looking for, which is a good thing in my book.

At the end of the day, I have mixed feelings about this move. The fan inside me is stoked to have Russell Branyan back. I think the price is fair too. This isn't like when the M's traded Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera to the Indians for Ben Broussard and Eduardo Perez, respectively. The Mariners mortgaged a few marginal prospects for a legitimate upgrade this time around.

However, I don't think Albert Pujols could save this offense, much less Russell Branyan. This team is better with Russell back in the fold, but it's still not going anywhere, and now the organization has a couple fewer pieces that could have figured into the long-term future. There are two things keeping this deal from being an obvious bad move: 1. how expendable the guys the M's gave up are, and 2. how much of an upgrade Russell Branyan is (along with how awesome he is to watch). It is a deal I doubt that I would do, but it is one that Z did. In this case, I'm not sure either choice is right or wrong. It is simply a choice, so I will let the fan inside me dream of the Muscle's moonshots as I go to sleep tonight.

Cliff Lee's Value

Cliff Lee
I have never been emotionally attached to a player quite like Cliff Lee. He is not my favorite Mariner of all time (it will be a while before someone challenges Edgar Martinez), but a player has never captured my imagination like Cliff. I might shed a tear if he is traded, even though all along I've known he could be around for a year or less. I expected to appreciate Lee's masterful pitching, but I did not expect to fall in love with it like I have.

So, admittedly, I am looking for logical reasons to keep Lee around, even if it is just through the end of this increasingly lost season. However, I think there are some sound reasons.

First of all, Cliff Lee will be a Type A free agent, and if he leaves the Mariners, it will almost certainly be to a championship contender. That means it is almost a lock that the M's would get two first-round draft picks if he leaves.

Second, I believe Cliff Lee is elevating the performance of the pitchers around him. I am not sure he does much for Felix, because Felix is so naturally competitive. However, watching Lee go out every fifth day and dominate hitters by attacking the strike zone is an incredible example for guys like Doug Fister and Jason Vargas to follow. Moreover, one of Lee's quirks is how much he talks, especially during his starts. He shares what is in his head while also demonstrating what it leads to. I agree with anyone else that looks at the data and results, and conclude that Vargas and Fister aren't as good as they have shown so far. However, both are in the midst of breakout seasons, and Lee's role should not be downplayed. I think even three more months of Lee could make several pitchers on this staff a little better in years to come.

As a fan, I wish Cliff Lee was untouchable. I wish he could pitch forever with the Mariners just like he has been. However, he will never look better than he has now, and any team is getting fewer and fewer starts with him the farther we go into the season. The logical time to trade Lee is clearly right now.

Still, I wonder what team would give up the price I would be looking for. The two prime draft picks and incremental improvement of pitchers around Lee have to be replaced in the trade. That certainly can be done. In my mind, it takes a younger position player or starting pitcher that is contributing in the majors right now, along with a couple of legitimate prospects. Either that or a budding star, but I think that is unrealistic.

Without a doubt, several teams have the parts to acquire Cliff Lee. I just wonder if anyone would give up the minimum I would demand for only three to four months of him. We may find out in the near future. As a fan, I won't be heartbroken if nobody does.

More Minor Moves

First of all, upon further review, Edwin Encarnacion is not such a slam dunk to claim. He is making almost $5 million this year, and he certainly is not the type of player I would clear salary for. However, perhaps Toronto could be interested in swapping Ian Snell for him in what would technically be a minor league trade, but with MLB-sized salaries.

The transaction wire continues to percolate with small deals. Today word is breaking that the Astros have acquired Tommy Everidge from the Rainiers. I am not sure what Houston is planning to do with him, but they have him now. Anything besides a straight-up purchase of his contract would surprise me, so I do not expect anyone of interest to come back to the M's organization in the deal.

A couple more mildly interesting players were designated for assignment today. The first is former Mariner Greg Dobbs. His first couple years in Philadelphia he proved to be a quality bench player, but his hitting has slipped since then. It is easy to argue that no one can be sure if he really has slipped with the limited plate appearances he gets, but I am willing to trust the Phillies on this one. Dobbs will find a home somewhere, but he is replacement level talent at this point.

The other somewhat interesting guy placed on waivers today was Cla Meredith. He is a side-arming reliever that has bounced around considerably, but always seems to land on his feet. Despite a low K rate and slightly above average BABIP, his career ERA sits at 3.62, thanks mostly to a low home run rate. Projections seem to think that the home run rate is unsustainable, but I am not so certain. Meredith's windup is deceptive, and the home run rate has stayed below average through 286 career appearances. At just 27 years old, Cla should still have plenty left in the tank too.

If I am the Mariners, I would not put a claim on Dobbs, but I would think about Meredith. He is what he is at this point, a serviceable middle reliever, but the bullpen has made a habit of melting down recently. Also, Mark Lowe is gone for the season, so some added depth would be nice. Meredith, at the very least, is better than Sean White in my eyes. I wouldn't be considering him if we still had Kanekoa Texeira around, but I digress.

I wonder if baseball teams pay someone to sit by a fax machine all day and see who gets designated for assignment. I would sign up for that job. The last few days in particular have featured all sorts of guys who could legitimately fill out the end of a roster.

Another Worthwhile Claim

On the heels of a couple somewhat interesting guys I profiled over the weekend comes yet another player designated for assignment that a bunch of teams should take a look at. This afternoon, the Blue Jays designated Edwin Encarnacion for assignment.

First of all, this move makes quite a bit of sense for Toronto. Encarnacion's best tool is his power, and the Blue Jays have more than enough of that already. There was already a squeeze for playing time, and it was only going to get worse as some of Toronto's more advanced prospects (like Brett Wallace) push into the majors.

With that said, a guy like Encarnacion does not pop up on waivers every day. He is only 27 years old, and has undeniable power. He also is an undeniably bad third baseman defensively, but for his career has produced positive WAR seasons because his power is that good. Curiously, Encarnacion has never been tried at other positions, even though his defensive limitations at third are well known.

A team in as desperate need of power as the Mariners should make a claim on Edwin Encarnacion. Mike Carp could be sent down, and Encarnacion could get a look at first base. I would try to mix him into the corner outfield slots too, and maybe even second base a little. If he can defend multiple positions badly with a powerful stick, he isn't a bad bench option for a good team.

Bottom line, the Mariners really need some offense, and I would be looking for cheap power. Encarnacion fits the bill, and the M's have a good chance to get him if they put a claim in on him.

Serviceable Parts

With everyone paying attention to game seven of the NBA Finals, even me (gasp!...seriously, it's probably been a couple years since I've sat down to intentionally watch an NBA game), now is the perfect time for an obscure baseball post. A couple players hit waivers today that pique my interest.

The first is soon-to-be former Marlin Renyel Pinto. He is a huge lefty, listed at 6'4" and 265 pounds, and he has respectable 3.62 ERA for his career. I am quite surprised that a lefty as good as Pinto, at a rather young 28 years old, is available for anyone to claim.

There are a few buyer bewares with Pinto. First of all, over his career, his most effective pitch has been change-up. Consequently, he runs inverted splits - for his career, he has been better against righties. He certainly should not be a situational lefty. Also, Pinto's peripheral stats say his ERA should be about a run worse than it usually is.

With all that said, Pinto has a spot in someone's bullpen. The Mariners certainly should claim him, though I'll be shocked if he makes it that far in the waiver process (everyone in the NL gets a crack at him first).

The second player that hit waivers interests me even more. His name is Jayson Nix, a 28-year-old utility player. The White Sox designated him for assignment to reportedly make room for Dayan Viciedo. Nix had a pleasant surprise of a season last year, flashing moderately surprising power with pleasant defense. This year, his slash line is underwhelming, but his playing time has been limited to say the least.

Nix is what he is. He provides somewhere between solid and good defense at second base and the corner outfield slots. He also can defend shortstop and third base if needed. At the plate, Nix has enough pop in his bat to make pitchers pay for mistakes, but not enough to be a pivotal piece in a good offense. In Mariners terms, Jayson Nix is a better version of Matt Tuiasosopo.

If I were Jack Zduriencik, I would put claims in on both Pinto and Nix. The 40-man roster sits at 38 players, so there is room without booting anyone out. At the MLB level, Tui and Brian Sweeney could be sent down.

Nix and Pinto are far from franchise or season savers, but they would make several teams better, including the Mariners.

A Difference In Approaches

When the Mariners had the bases loaded with only one out in the top of the eighth, they sent out a pair of pinch-hitters, Michael Saunders and Casey Kotchman, to face the Padres ace setup man, Mike Adams. The reasoning was more than sound. The two hit in place of Rob Johnson and Brandon League, respectively, and created righty versus lefty match-ups. In particular, I was pleasantly surprised to see Don Wakamatsu pick Saunders above all his other bench options. Maybe Saunders is close to earning the belief that he deserves.

Anyway, the ensuing at-bats said a bunch about both Saunders and Kotchman. Though they both failed to come through, I felt much different about the two players when their at-bats were over.

Adams quickly got ahead of Saunders 0-2 with a couple sliders the he placed well on the low-outside corner. On air, Mike Blowers said that Saunders has to learn to be more aggressive in a pinch-hitting situation, but I disagree. Those were a couple pitcher's pitches he took, and there is no reason to swing at such quality pitches until absolutely necessary.

Next, Adams saw if Saunders would expand the strike zone, finally throwing a fastball but well off the plate. Saunders did not bite. Adams stayed away with his fastball and slider, and Saunders battled hard. He fouled off pitches in the strike zone, and took the pitches that were balls. It sounds simple enough, but it is easier said than done in a situation like that, especially for someone probably feeling some urgency to prove himself. In the end, Saunders worked the count full, and then Adams threw a slider down and in that he swung over top of. The slider may not have been a strike, but it was too close to take, and very well located by Adams.

As Saunders walked away from the plate, I was deflated, but impressed. It took two sliders well located low and away, and a gutsy slider thrown low an in with the count full, to strike him out. That is some mean pitching.

Up next was Casey Kotchman, and his at-bat looked radically different. Adams started him off with a fastball more or less down the middle for strike one. Then, Adams came back again with a fastball that caught a healthy portion of the plate, and Kotchman slapped into a groundout, concluding the inning.

Those two pinch-hit at-bats illustrate exactly why Michael Saunders needs to play more, and Casey Kotchman is a lost cause. Adams approach against both hitters was extremely telling to me. Both hitters faced the same pitcher in essentially the exact same situation, and Adams treated them very differently. It makes sense to go with breaking balls against a young guy that is likely to be geared up for a fastball, but if Adams was simply trying to get Saunders to get himself out, he wouldn't have located the sliders so well. Michael Saunders got some respect from Adams, and if any scouts were watching that at-bat, I think he is going to get more respect in the future. That's the kind of at-bat that lets a scout know that a guy is not going to get himself out.

Nothing could be farther from the truth for Casey Kotchman right now. Adams showed no fear of him at all. Adams pumped a fastball right over the plate, seeming to assume that Kotchman would just take it (which he did). Then, he threw another fastball over the plate, seeming to beg Kotchman to hit it, and he did, grounding rather weakly to finish off the inning.

As the field cleared and the game went to an ad break, there was no doubt that San Diego has a ton more respect for Michael Saunders than Casey Kotchman. The results in the game, and production we have seen so far this season, back up San Diego's views too.

Really, those couple at-bats say it all for me. Michael Saunders has a nice approach at the plate. He can punish a mistake, and he is not going after pitcher's pitches. He is not a guy any team should pitch around, but he makes a pitcher buckle down and give the best that he has got. Meanwhile, Kotchman has developed a reputation as an overly timid hitter. He takes so many pitches that are pretty straight and clearly over the plate. On top of that, when he swings, he often makes weak contact. Kotchman has a good eye, but that's useless with where he is at right now. Pitchers are daring him to hit the ball, because they do not think he is liable to do anything damaging, and Kotchman is proving them right over and over.

The Mariners need more at-bats like the one Saunders put together, and they need to eliminate ones like Kotchman's. The simple answer is to play Saunders and not play Kotchman, but it goes deeper than that. This team needs to play the game with a unified aggressiveness it is yet to show. We have seen where playing the game a little scared and cautiously has gotten them.

Mariners Poised for Rebound

Another day, another M's loss. At least the earlier bullpen meltdown guaranteed that this would not be a walk-off loss. Not that the bullpen really lost the game, because the offense blew a bunch of golden, bases-loaded opportunities.

Believe big!

The most interesting part of this game happened immediately afterwards. A players-only meeting was called, and usually I don't pay much attention to these. I have no idea what was said, but this one has a chance to be powerful. It was called by new players - Cliff Lee, Milton Bradley, and Chone Figgins.

This team has looked directionless on the field. It seems stuck in its ways, particularly of late, and that wouldn't be such a bad thing if their ways weren't so bad. The players are well aware of the hole and corresponding rut they are in, and it stinks for everyone involved.

However, it is easy to be competitive and happy when a team is winning. It is much harder to be on good terms when a team is losing, particularly when players are paid a ton to win.

That is part of what intrigues me so much about this team meeting. This season keeps drawing comparisons to the 2008 debacle, where everything went wrong. There have been nights where I have wondered if this team would be remembered in a similar way, and tonight was one of those nights - until the team meeting.

There are guys in that clubhouse who aren't going to let this season go without a fight. They won't accept losing, and they keep doing things behind closed doors to try to kick start something. Bad stretches have a knack for showing true colors, and I think this team saw something promising in the wake of this latest loss.

It saw Cliff Lee, increasingly the epicenter of trade talks, step up tonight and talk to this team about whatever he talked about. That's pretty special. Not only is he epically good more often than not on the mound, but he is invested in the team. He is all about winning, even with every reason in the world to worry about himself at this point. Talk about make-up that is off-the-charts.

How about Milton Bradley too? What kind of bizarro world are the 2010 Mariners living in? He was supposed to be the guy that would benefit from this clubhouse atmosphere. As of tonight, the tables completely flipped. It was Milton Bradley trying to bring this team together. He might be in the process of emerging as a clubhouse leader. Unbelievable.

Seeing Chone Figgins step up might have been the best of all. He is around for a while with the contract he signed. He has a chance to become a new clubhouse rock, in a way that an aging guy like Mike Sweeney can't be.

A clubhouse meeting won't breed a 35-home run slugger. However, these guys have to live with each other and the miserable season they are suffering through for a ton more games. Losing like this is ugly, and it seeps in everywhere.

Yet, there are guys stepping up, taking accountability, and putting up a fight. There are players that care on this team, and that take pride in the product on the field.

A new order might have begun to be established tonight. It could prove to be big. I don't think it is big enough to lift the 2010 Mariners from the ashes, but it might be enough to keep this organization from sinking, and needing to clean house. Losing ballclubs can develop losing attitudes, but this one has not yet, and I don't think it will after the leadership shown tonight. Too many people don't just say they care. They legitimately care.

Talking about the leadership shown in a clubhouse meeting totally ranks as a moral victory, and those don't do anything for the win-loss column. However, after watching how this team has performed for the past week, I'll take any victory I can get. Tonight could prove to be a turning point though. This team still believes it is better (and that's good, because it is), and it is not about to give in either.

2010 Draft: Mariners Day Three Recap

MLB players come around from time to time this late in the draft, but it's very rare. Teams are done drafting the guys they really are pinning hopes on, for the most part. Today's picks mostly fall into two categories: easy college signs that will fill out the short-season minor league teams, and higher upside guys almost impossible to sign for one reason or another. The impossible signs are team's fallback options in case one of their higher picks doesn't look like they will sign.

With the nature of day three in mind, I have decided against breakdowns of every single player. If you are that interested, e-mail me (the contact info is in the right-hand column in the about me section). Instead, I have broken down the M's picks into the three main groups, based on their chances of signing:

EXTREMELY LIKELY TO SIGN

  • Andrew Giobbi, C,Vanderbilt
  • Billy Marcoe, C, Cal State Fullerton - Hometown is Bellevue
  • Ethan Paquette, 1B, Hofstra
  • Matt Browning, 3B, James Madison
  • Patrick Brady, INF, Bellarmine College (KY) - Put up an impressive .379/.406/.694 slash line with 27 steals in 30 attempts too! Definitely a great pick in the 48th round.
  • James Wood, OF, Trinity College (CT) - Put up a HUGE .441/.504/.881 slash line in his senior year, and also went 9 for 10 stealing bases. Could be a pleasant surprise as a 47th round pick.
  • Tyler Whitney, LHP, Mississippi State
  • Ryan Kiel, LHP, Marshall
  • Josh Krist, RHP, Cal Poly
  • Tim Boyce, RHP, Rhode Island
  • Nathan Reed, LHP, Kutztown - Reed was drafted by the White Sox in the 20th round last year, but slipped to the 40th round this year. I think teams forgot about him once he transferred to Kutztown from Pitt, because his numbers are intriguing. Lots of walks, but not many hits, and I see some potential in his breaking ball. See if you agree.
UNLIKELY TO SIGN

  • Douglas Peterson, 3B, Gilbert HS (AZ)
  • Colton Keough, OF, Tesoro HS (CA)
  • David Holman, RHP, Hutchinson CC (KS) - M's drafted Holman last year in the 47th round, and I don't see any good reason he will sign as a 50th round pick this year

OTHERS

  • Jake Schlander, SS, Stanford - Would you walk away from Stanford as a junior if you were drafted late? There is a pretty highly regarded prep shortstop (Lonnie Kauppila, 44th round pick of the A's) committed to the Cardinal, which may or may not be relevant too.
  • Forrest Snow, RHP, Washington - A junior at the UW with a fantastic pitching body, at 6'6". If he adds velocity to match his frame, he is intriguing. I think he signs if he likes the idea of pitching for the home team.
  • Ben Versnik, RHP, Wisconsin-Whitewater - Burly right-hander with good numbers out of the bullpen. He is only a junior, so he can got back in the draft next year. But, he also has experience in summer leagues, so he seems pretty set on giving baseball a chance.
  • Mike Aviles, RHP, St. Thomas Aquinas College (NY) - I don't have much on this guy, but he might be the older brother of Robert Aviles, a prep pitcher taken in the 7th round by the Indians. Aviles is a unique enough  name, and they went to the same high school. Mike is a junior, so he could go back to school.
  • Stephen Kohlscheen, RHP, Auburn - Another huge pitcher (6'6"), and he throws the ball in the low 90s. He is listed as a junior, so he should have some college eligibility left. He was drafted in the 30th round by the Phillies last year, and the 45th round this year by the M's. He may decide to sign, and his frame and velocity aren't that common for signable guys this late in the draft.
  • David Rollins, LHP, San Jacinto College - There's one pitch in this video that I think is a change-up (the one that was clocked at 76 MPH), and looks like a promising pitch. The M's drafted Rollins last year in the 35th round, and this year in the 46th. They definitely like him. He appears set to pitch in the Cape Cod league this summer, and he could for a bit before signing. Worth watching, because he could be a steal this late if he performs well. Rollins also is listed as a sophomore (though he is a year older than most sophomores), so he should still have college eligibility.
If you really want a thorough breakdown of the third day in the MLB draft, I'm sorry for the terribly slow day you are having at work. The most interesting guys to me out of these picks are Patrick Brady, James Wood, Nathan Reed, and David Rollins. One thing I like about the day is how heavy it was on college guys. Many teams pick a ton of prep players as fallback options for if they can't sign their top picks. Essentially, one way or another, that strategy punts several draft picks away. The Mariners at least gave themselves a chance to find a diamond in the rough, which several organizations more or less cut themselves off from.

2010 Draft: Mariners Day Two Recap

There were alot of picks today. There were some interesting stories too. I do not have the time and energy to cover all of them. I doubt you have the time and energy to read all of them.

So let's just talk about the Mariners. If we are going to talk about a bunch of non-household names, they might as well be our non-household names.

I will go pick-by-pick below, but in case you just want an overview, here is what I saw. Despite the...um...shortcomings on offense at the major league level, it appears the organization identified pitching as its greatest organizational need. Although I would not have focused on pitching to the degree this front office did, they are correct. Look below AA (and really, below Michael Pineda and Mauricio Robles), and the Mariners don't have an arm that projects into the core of a starting rotation. The worst mistake they could have made would have been ignoring pitching.

The next worst mistake they could have made was ignoring catching - and they might have. I wanted a college guy, and admittedly the crop was quite thin. However, the M's had some chances to add a backstop at a good slot in the draft, and didn't.

Overall, I like what the M's did, but don't love it. Here are the picks:

2nd round (67th overall) - Marcus Littlewood, SS, Pine View HS (UT) - There were rumors around the M's taking Littlewood where they took Walker, so good for them waiting and still getting their guy. Marcus is a switch-hitter that has filled out a bunch in the past year (in a good, muscular way), and most think that will force him off of shortstop. He universally gets good marks for his hands though, so he should be a good fielder. I get a Nick Franklin vibe from Littlewood, and if he's anything like Franklin, this is an excellent pick.

3 (99) - Ryne Stanek, RHP, Blue Valley HS (KS) - There are several things to like about Stanek. He was the consensus top midwest prep pitcher, thanks to a projectable 6'4" frame, nice mechanics, and a fastball that already has good zip and life. He probably goes higher if he doesn't pitch in the midwest, where it's harder to log lots of innings (get exposure) because of the colder winters. Personally, I breathed a sigh of relief with this pick, because it signaled to me the M's were not putting all their eggs in Taijuan Walker's basket. Not that Z has done anything to make me think he would do such a thing, but it was still nice to know he wasn't about to.

4 (132) - James Paxton, LHP, Grand Prairie (Independent) - Paxton is a very interesting, fairly high-profile case. He got drafted in the supplemental first round last year by the Blue Jays, but opted not to sign. He wanted to return to Kentucky for his senior season, but they ruled him ineligible, out of fears that his contact with Scott Boras broke NCAA rules. It's a weird story built to show off all that is wrong with the NCAA, but I digress. In the end, Paxton sat around for a long time, and signed with Grand Prairie to get some work in before the draft. He didn't look that sharp, and his velocity was down, but he also hadn't pitched for almost a year. At his best, he flashed a fastball in the mid 90s, and struck out more than his fair share of SEC batters. However, Paxton also has some injury issues and inconsistent mechanics. He is far from a sure bet, but I still really like this pick. The Walker, Stanek, and Paxton picks remind me of when Bill Bavasi drafted Chris Tillman, Tony Butler, and Nathan Adcock. They were all risky upside picks, and between the trio it seemed likely that one of them would pan out (right now, it's looking like Tillman). I think this trio Z picked is better than that one, and this team needed some higher upside arms. Good strategy.

5 (162) - Stephen Pryor, RHP, Tennessee Tech - If Paxton signaled a theme to the draft strategy, Pryor cemented it. He is huge at 6'4" and 250 pounds, and he is a power arm for sure. Pryor struck out a ridiculous 75 batters in 41 innings out of relief. His walk rate is a little high for my taste, and the level of competition isn't elite, but those don't outweigh the strikeout rate. Part of me thinks this was a reach, but only because I think he could have snuck under the radar a bit farther. Purely on talent, I think this is a reasonable range for him. A solid pick.

6 (192) - Christian Carmichael, C, Mililani HS (HI) - I don't know much about this prep guy, but he hits from a pretty spread stance and is able to firm up the front nicely. His defense is considered in front of his offense. The Mariners needed to address catcher, and this is the best hope from this draft. Props for addressing a known need, props for getting a guy at a fair range for him, but thumbs down for making this the spot to first address a glaring need. Overall, an okay pick.

7 (222) - Mickey Wiswall, 1B, Boston College - Wiswall generated some buzz for the power stroke he was showing heading into this year. However, he didn't quite live up to expectations, though his OPS was still over 1.000. The lack of walks and high strikeout rate suggest that he may have been swinging for the seats on every pitch, instead of taking the cruddy ones. I thought he was overrated coming into this draft, but then he slid, and this feels like a good place to take him. The Mariners could use some power, and we should find out quickly if Wiswall can provide some. Nice pick.

8 (252) - Jabari Blash, OF, Miami Dade CC - Blash is kind of an odd prospect. He is a chiseled 6'5", so very physically imposing. However, he barely hits for any power. Instead, he relies on good plate discipline, and solid speed. Blash also reportedly got kicked off the baseball team this year for some reason, and he turned down a pretty nice bonus from the Rangers last year. Thumbs down on this pick from me.

9 (282) - Luke Taylor, RHP, Woodinville HS (WA) - I am always a proponent of grabbing players in your back yard, and that's exactly what the Mariners did here. Taylor is a tall pitcher with a projectable body, which is nice, because his fastball sits in the upper 80s for now. As he develops, it could gain velocity, and if it does he could be a hidden gem from this draft class. That's all assuming he signs, which in itself is not a given from a prep player in this range. Considering all the ifs involved, this is a blah pick for me.

10 (312) - Tyler Burgoon, RHP, Michigan - Burgoon has the prototypical numbers of a dominant bullpen arm. He also has a fastball that sits in the low 90s, and a slurve that I think has some potential. He is short, and that probably caused him to slide. Nice value at this pick.

11 (342) - Jon Keller, RHP, Xavier HS (IA) - Another projectable prep pitcher for the Mariners, but Keller has a ways to go. I found his windup a little stilted for my taste, his fastball seemed pretty straight and sat in the 80s, and his breaking ball didn't do much for me either. I think college is a better option for Keller right now. This was a disappointing pick for me.

12 (372) - Stefen Romero, 3B, Oregon State - I consider Oregon State to be within the M's back yard, so another gold star for sticking close to home. On top of that, Romero's bat shows some promise, particularly for a guy at this stage in the draft. He hit a modest amount of home runs with a modest of amount of strike outs. His power translated to wood in limited ABs in the Cape Cod league, and his numbers improved noticeably from his sophomore to junior season. A real nice pick for this stage of the draft.

13 (402) - Jason Markovitz, LHP, Long Beach State - Somebody must have seen something in a bullpen, because Markovitz did not log many innings in his four-year career at Long Beach State. However, he did get 25 appearances this year in relief, and he seems pretty hard to hit. The walk rate is high, but if the stuff is good, command can be worked on. A decent selection.

14 (432) - Tyler Linehan, LHP, Sheldon HS (CA) - Honestly, I've got nothing on this guy. He is listed at 6'0" and 240 pounds. Based on that, and the trend of the arms the M's picked today, I'm going to say that they guy throws decently hard. That would have value, especially from the left side.

15 (462) - Charles Ka'alekahi, RHP, Campbell HS (HI) - The Mariners have someone that takes Hawai'i seriously, because Kaalekahi is the second prep player taken from Hawai'i by the M's this year. You can check out his MLB scouting video, if for no other reason the catchy music they picked to go with it. The video is all I have to evaluate him on, but several things stand out to me. His motion is simple and fluid, and he seems to be able to consistently repeat it. The arm action is nice, as it seems to move freely from start to finish. His fastball sits in the upper 80s, and I'm not sure I see much in his frame to suggest he will throw much harder. I think the Mariners dug harder around Hawai'i than most teams, and found a player that should have gone higher. A nice pick, and my only question is why every team doesn't spend a bunch of time scouting (as well as "scouting") Hawai'i for talent.

16 (492) - Jordan Shipers, LHP, South Harrison HS (MO) - This front office continued to dig, this time turning to a high school that doesn't even have a baseball program! Shipers played at several tournaments, but I am certain that the lack of a baseball team (and thus exposure) hampered his draft stock. That probably makes Shipers more raw than most, but I liked what I saw on the video, and I think the Mariners made another very nice value pick. By the way, any doubt that they left any stone unturned looking for pitching prospects with upside this year?

17 (522) - Danny Lopez, SS, Pittsburgh - Danny doesn't have much pop in his stick. He definitely projects to be a light hitter in general, but he does have speed, and he does play a premium position. Really solid selection at this point in the draft.

18 (552) - Willy Kesler, RHP, New Mexico - Pretty good numbers in his first year of significant action. Pretty much the kind of guy that should be available (and drafted) around this time in the draft.

19 (582) - Frankie Christian, OF, Upland HS (CA) - If Frankie is any good, he likely goes to college and raises his draft status. Judging from the 30 seconds of video I found, he looks like he has some talent. His stroke looked like it had a pretty good uppercut, but he has quickness to counteract that and suggest he can use it for power. I don't like picking high schoolers in this area of the draft, because I think most of the worthwhile ones go off to college and become higher draft picks. Meanwhile, potentially serviceable college guys pass on by.

20 (612) - Matt Bischoff, RHP, Purdue - Another seasoned college arm with a rather nondescript statline. Nothing exceptionally good or bad about it, aside from a slightly elevated home run rate. His strikeout rate has improved from year to year as well. Classic guy that should be available (and taken) around this part of the draft.

21 (642) - Luke Guarnacchia, C, St. Thomas Aquinas HS (FL) - I don't have anything on this guy, except that he catches, and probably knows a thing or two about Catholicism and how to reason coming from a school named after Aquinas.

22 (672) - Stephen Landazuri, RHP, Carter HS (CA) - Another prep player I know nothing about

23 (702) - Jandy Sena, RHP, Marion Military Institute - No idea who found this guy, but he is more proof that the Mariners left no stones unturned looking for pitchers this year. He didn't even have a school listed in the MLB draft tracker. Sena has the distinction of being the biggest M's player drafted so far (6-6, 245), which is saying something with all the taller guys they drafted.

24 (732) - Bennett Whitmore, LHP, Concordia College - The M's are on this guy. They drafted him last year in the 32nd round. Whitmore transferred from Oregon to Concordia, and he posted a nice year as one of their main starters. The 6-3, 215-pound frame from the left side is also nice.

25 (762) - Ernesto Zaragaza, RHP, Kaiser HS (CA) - Beautiful name. I don't know much else.

26 (792) - Robert Anston, OF, Boston College - A fair amount of triples and stolen bases suggest good speed. However, he does not have much power, which is probably why he is available at this point. Still, another good pick later on in the draft.

27 (822) - Nick Fleece, RHP, Texas A&M - I found some hitting and pitching numbers for Fleece with the Aggies, leading me to think he is pretty raw on the mound. He also didn't play a whole bunch. Somebody must have seen something in a bullpen session, because I don't see much in the numbers available to me.

28 (852) - Tim Griffin, RHP, Rollins College - Believe it or not, this is one of my favorite picks of the day. I ran into Griffin as I studied up on the draft thanks to some great summer league numbers. Following up on him at Rollins, I found a guy with seven complete games, including three shutouts. This is the kind of guy I love to see get a chance, and I am happy it is the Mariners giving him that chance.

29 (882) - Jonathan McGibbon, 1B, Lindenhurst HS (NY) - Another prep player I have nothing to share about. He apparently has a scholarship to go to Clemson, and I am guessing he accepts it.

30 (912) - Derek Poppert, SS, San Francisco - A couple years ago, Poppert got some playing time in the Cape Cod league, and did okay. Decent speed and an ability to make contact are his best tools offensively. Definitely a guy worth picking at this stage in the draft.

Overall, there are not many picks that stand out for me from the M's second day, but also few that I hate. This looks like a solid draft for them. The higher ceiling power arms they picked will ultimately decide how good this class is for the Mariners.

2010 Draft: Day Two Recap

This was the meat and potatoes of the draft. The first round is awesome for sure, but 29 rounds of talent was selected today. This was the day where guys that surprisingly tumbled out of the first round were picked up, and the rest of the available talent went from dotted with upside, to dotted with hopeful contributors, to digging for diamonds in the rough.

This was the big day for organizations. Here are my day two winners:

  • Rays: I loved their first day, and they kept the ball rolling. 3B Derek Dietrich, INF Ryan Brett, RHP Austin Wood, RHP Jesse Hahn, OF Michael Lorenzen, 3B Phil Wunderlich, and 1B Kevin Patterson were all picks that jumped out to me at the point the Rays got them. I wonder if they can sign all their high school picks, but that is a worry for another day.
  • Pirates: I have been plenty hard on Pittsburgh under Neal Huntington, but his drafts have been solid. This one, however, is outstanding. Their top two picks today, RHP Stetson Allie and OF Mel Rojas Jr. are superb. Tallion (their first pick) and Allie were probably the consensus two most powerful arms in this entire draft, so to come away with both of them is a coup. I also love Rojas's speed, and if he pans out, a top of the order with him and Andrew McCutcheon is super exciting.
  • Cubs: Their first two picks today, Reggie Golden and Micah Gibbs, were excellent value for where they were at. Near the end of the day Chicago also grabbed Bryan Harper, who I was surprised slipped as far as he did.
Here is look at the rest of the competition in the AL West:

  • Angels: After picking all high-schoolers with their five picks yesterday, they grabbed predominately college players today. They picked three guys on my radar, RHP Donn Roach, OF Drew Heid (from Gonzaga), and LHP Aaron Meade. The Angels rarely pick players I have looked at, and they tend to pick prep guys early, so they stayed true to form.
  • Athletics: They seemed pretty focused on adding power to their organization. I was disappointed (the ultimate complement from a rival) when they grabbed 3B Yordy Cabrera. I would have picked him over their first round guy, Michael Choice, straight up. Other guys they picked that I looked at were 3B Chad Lewis, 3B Tony Thompson, 1B A.J. Kirby-Jones, RHP Matt Thomson, RHP A.J. Griffin, 3B Scott Woodward, and 2B Ryan Pineda. Of that group, Lewis and Kirby-Jones interest me the most. I think Oakland had a pretty nice mix of prep and college talent, though I think they should have addressed the middle infield a little more than they did.
  • Rangers: Texas was all about upside, picking lots of young, projectable guys. Even some of their most noteworthy college guys are ones that have reputable ability, but bad production. Their day may be decided as much by how many of the prep guys they are able to sign as the caliber of talent they picked. Guys the Rangers picked that I looked at are RHP Cody Buckel, RHP Justin Grimm, 1B Andrew Clark, CF Ryan Strausborger, and OF Brian Ragira. Honestly, based on the guys I am somewhat acquainted with in the Rangers draft class, I am unimpressed with how they have done. However, I think their real magic is in player development, because I am yet to look at a Texas draft and be blown away, but the results are there.

I will recap the Mariners in a separate post, and it will probably hit the blog late tonight or early tomorrow morning. My initial impression is that it was a good day for them, but not a great one like last year was. However, that's as much a reflection of the epic draft I think they had last year as it is a commentary on this year's picks.

Finally, for you hardcore folks, the following is a handful of players to watch for on day three. These are mostly players from small schools that have put up big numbers, but a few bigger school guys are thrown in. Since they are such late picks (or maybe guys that don't get picked at all), I feel compelled to give them some time in the sun. Each has a brief write-up:

  • Paul Hoilman, 1B, East Tennessee State - All the guy does is hit, as evidenced by his .421/.526/.860 line, and he has put up massive numbers his whole college career. He might be best served going back to school for his senior season to try to raise his draft stock.
  • Jordan Ribera, 1B, Fresno State - Ribera really busted out this year, so there may be worry that he is a one year wonder. I see signs that the power has always been there though, and this year he became more disciplined. I am a little surprised a guy with 27 homers from a program like Fresno State is still on the board.
  • Mike Nemeth, 1B, Connecticut - Posted a .386/.470/.650 line with decent power (15 home runs) and nice plate discipline (38 BB, 24 K).
  • Kevin Tokarski, 2B, Illinois State - To this point, Tokarski is a one-year wonder, and there are good reasons to think his .420/.545/.695 production is a fluke. What if it isn't though? He is only a junior, so a strong senior campaign should vault him up a draft board. However, I think his speed is for real (33 for 39 on stolen bases this year), he plays up the middle, and his story is amazing. The article linked to doesn't do the injury justice; it was career threatening, and then this dream season happens.
  • Carlos Alonso, 3B, Delaware - Carlos is the prototype for my kind of draft pick this late. He is a senior, put massive numbers in a lesser-known conference (.389/.462/.708 slash line), and did it while hacking away to a certain degree, with a relatively modest 25 walks.
  • Phil Cerreto, 3B, Longwood - Playing in obscurity, Cerreto put up some big numbers. He doesn't appear to have much power or speed, but his .414/.477/.715 is awfully impressive, and his numbers have improved throughout his career. If you haven't noticed, I'm all about rolling the dice on small school guys with huge numbers when we get near the end of the draft.
  • Pete Greskoff, 3B, Brown - Pete is only a junior, and I have a hard time believing he will walk away from an Ivy league education this late in the draft. He could also become Brown's all-time home run leader if he goes back too, and it is his power that got him mentioned here.
  • Mark Micowski, INF, Georgia State - Nothing too fancy to this guy's game. Solid approach at the plate with decent speed. Batted .392 with 36 walks 18 Ks, and 17 for 20 on stolen base attempts. Hardly overwhelming numbers at his competition level, but suggestive of a skillset that could provide organizational depth.
  • Trey Karlen, INF, Tennessee Martin - Possibly a one-year wonder, but he has 30 stolen bases and 14 homers...along with 56 strike outs. There are clearly question marks in his game, and without other seasons to look at, there could be lots of luck mixed in too. However, he has some speed and some power, and that's even with holes in his swing and approach at the plate.
  • Trevor Knight, OF, James Madison - 13 home runs and 15 of 16 on steals this year. He also has pitching experience, and has racked up big strikeout totals. That leads me to think his arm is an asset in the outfield too.
  • Corey Taylor, OF, Binghamton - 14 home runs and 20 of 23 on steals this year, so I see a bit of an intriguing power/speed combo for this late in the draft. He also hit for a high average with only 22 walks, meaning his .370/.440/.679 slash line a product of hitting talent, not just plate discipline.
  • Eli Boike, OF, Michigan State - Boike really emerged as a senior this year, posting a .384/.453/.611 slash line in the Big 10 after being the MVP in the Cal Ripken Sr. league over the summer. I think there is a little more speed in him than his stolen bases indicate, and he will need it because of he has limited power. Still, an MVP in any league with a 1.000+ OPS in a BCS conference warrants a pick.
  • Chad Salem, UT, Manhattan - Salem hasn't really found a home defensively, though he looks like he has played a fair amount of shortstop. That at least suggests he has some athleticism. I'm interested in his bat anyway. Not a ton of speed, but a .383/.519/.717 slash line. He raked against his competition.
  • Kenny Long, LHP, Illinois State - He could be a one-year wonder, but there aren't many southpaws still available with numbers like this: 65.1 IP, 44 Hits, 22 Walks, 72 Strikeouts, and no home runs allowed
  • Eric Erickson, RHP, Miami FL - Finesse guy that gets by on control. He is coming back from a big injury, which early on would make him a ridiculous risk to take, but at this point makes him a guy that could perhaps be better than expected as he bounces back from the injury. Considering his success in a major program, I am a little surprised he is still available.
  • Rye Davis, RHP, Western Kentucky - In relief for a smaller program, Davis has put up great numbers: 49.2 IP, 46 hits, 20 walks, 66 strikeouts, no home runs
  • Christopher Manno, RHP, Duke - Posted a 6.17 ERA in relief, but that is very misleading. His FIP is 2.36. Manno's walk rate is high, but all the other numbers are solid to good, and he plays in the ACC. I think he slipped through the cracks.
It is probably the stat junkie in me, but I don't understand how guys with such good numbers slip forever. Certainly, I see some of the holes that most see, but every team is looking for diamonds in the rough at this point. To me, it makes sense to take chances on guys that have shown a whole bunch in college.

2010 Draft: Day One Recap

Musings (in bullet points) from today's draft:
  • I'll start with the Mariners. They grabbed prep righty Taijaun Walker with their only pick at number 43. Here is a nice write-up by the PI on him. Walker is a killer athlete, and committed to baseball. Those are both definitely pluses. Everything about him on the mound is inconsistent though. The ceiling is undoubtedly high, so we are going to find out what M's player development is like under Jack Zduriencik. Walker is a project. The obvious comparison seems to be Edwin Jackson - which frankly, doesn't enthuse me a ton. There were other prep arms I liked more that were available at the time (namely Tyrell Jenkins and Peter Tago), and a fair amount of my top 25. I am not a fan of this pick, but at least I do see the potential for it to pan out.
  • Wooo, go Nationals, Pirates, and Orioles. They got the young studs. I have a hard time handing out pats on the back when it's pretty obvious what a team should do. But, none of them screwed up, and all of them came away with big-time talents.
  • I think four was WAY too high for Christian Colon. Granted, it is a clear sign that the Royals now understand why Yuni Betancourt was available, Colon wasn't going to make it to their next pick, and he was clearly the best shortstop available at that point. I don't want to belittle the pick, but I think they could have still found a shortstop later that could push Betancourt in the relatively near future while grabbing a good pitcher early
  • The draft "trended younger" than what's historically normal. That doesn't surprise me, given this crop of college players. I have said multiple times that the stars aren't there, but there is solid talent to be found. Teams like to grab stars early, and it seems most will take significant risk to preserve star potential with picks.
  • The Angels had the potential for a big day, and they went swinging for the fences. They took high-schoolers with all five picks. My favorite one of the bunch is their second pick, Cam Bedrosian. Kaleb Cowart could work out really well for them too, but they have to convince him to sign AND be a pitcher. That's a tall order. Many mocks had the halos coming away with Dylan Covey, Bedrosian, and maybe even Reggie Golden. If that would have happened, I would have been scared as an M's fan.
  • The Rangers also had the potential for a big day, but I don't think they got the same bang for their buck that the Angels did. Three of their four picks were high-schoolers, and the one college guy, Mike Olt, is far from a sure thing in my eyes. All of their picks, with the possible exception of Kellin Daglan, look like reaches to me though. It's about time they cool off in the draft though, because they have an absolutely loaded farm system.
  • The A's had only one pick, and played it pretty safe with Michael Choice. I think they were looking for power, and that's why they went with him. I'm not as high on Choice as most, but in general, this was a bad draft to sit in Oakland's slot. I would have gone with a higher ceiling (or more toolsy) guy in that slot, but it's hard to look at the guys drafted around Choice and say that any of them would be more helpful to the A's than the guy they grabbed.
  • I think the Rays had the best day of any team. I can't believe Justin O'Conner made it all the way to them at 31. I'm not as high on Josh Sale as most, but he was fair value at pick 17, and Drew Vettleson was good value at 42. This draft broke their way.
  • If I were the Brewers, I would have picked Alex Wimmers over Dylan Covey. They really need the pitching help, and Wimmers is a safer bet, without a huge loss of upside.
  • The Cubs easily made the most shocking pick of the day with their first pick, Hayden Simpson. I bothered to watch his scouting video and look at his numbers (after he was picked; I had no idea who he was until the Cubs grabbed him), and I'm not ready to ridicule him. Simpson has a power arm, and really good numbers in Division II. He could work out, though he also seems like a guy that they could have drafted later.
  • The Red Sox had an interesting day, which isn't usually said when a team grabs three college players. Kolbrin Vitek was a very nice pick at 20, and picking up Bryce Brentz and Anthony Ranaudo in the supplemental first round could pay dividends. Both of their stocks sunk this year, so they are the types that teams may look back and kick themselves for missing on. I still think that was a little high for Ranaudo, but the kid is big with big-time stuff if he puts it all together. He was much more worth the risk with a couple prospects already drafted.
  • I don't think the Tigers miss their first round pick at all after grabbing Nick Castellanos and Chance Ruffin in the supplementary round. They would have been looking at the same level of talent in the first round.
To finish the recap, here is a quick look at who is still available after day one:

  • still around from my top 25 list: RHP Addison Reed (10), OF Reggie Golden (14), LHP Rob Rasmussen (15), 1B Hunter Morris (18), RF Rob Segedin (19), RHP Kyle Blair (21), C Micah Gibbs (23), RHP Jesse Hahn (24)
  • other catchers still available (HINT HINT, Mariners): Robert Brantly, Blake Forsythe, Dan Burkhart, Ben Heath, Cameron Rupp
  • other sluggers still available (HINT HINT, Mariners): 3B Yordy Cabrera, 1B Jordan Ribera, 1B, A.J. Kirby-Jones, 1B Paul Hoilman, 1B Kyle Roller
  • other big school guys that interest me: 2B Phil Gosselin, 2B Jedd Gyorko, INF Davis Duren, 3B Phil Wunderlich, 3B Derek Dietrich, CF Tyler Holt, LF Austin Wates, CF Jarrett Parker, RHP Dan Klein, RHP Jordan Swagerty, LHP Drew Smyly, LHP Kevin Chapman, RHP Brandon Workman
  • other small(er) school guys that interest me: SS Andrelton Simmons, CF Mel Rojas Jr, OF Nate Roberts, CF Todd Cunningham, 1B Wes Cunningham, OF Corey Taylor, OF J.D. Ashbrook, RHP Kevin Munson, RHP Boone Whiting, LHP Kenny Long, RHP Josh Slaats, RHP Donn Roach, LHP Bryan Harper,
  • other prep guys that interest me: 2B Zack Alvord, 3B Chad Lewis, RHP Stetson Allie, RHP Robert Aviles, SS Marcus Littlewood, SS Jacoby Jones
Rounds 2 through 30 tomorrow, starting at 9 AM Pacific time. Especially with all the riskier, high upside picks made today, there is lots of solid talent still available.

2010 Draft: Other Noteworthy Players

I put my list of the top 25 prospects in this draft out for public consumption yesterday. Here are some other names worth writing a few blurbs about. I decided to lump them together by position:

CATCHERS
  • Michael Kvasnicka, Minnesota - Kvasnicka has been rising up draft boards. He splits time in the outfield and behind the plate, but his future is likely at catcher if he makes it as a pro. I like his athleticism and compact stroke, but I think his bat is a little fringy for an everyday player, and he was too raw as a catcher to garner strong consideration for a first-round pick if I were in charge of a team's draft. However, he is certainly worth a first day pick.
  • Robert Brantly, UC-Riverside - Solid improvement at the plate, and if some power comes, he could be a solid backstop.
  • Blake Forsythe, Tennessee - Power is unquestioned, but ability to make contact has been very inconsistent. A guy worth taking a chance on (but a little later in the draft), even after a disappointing junior season
FIRST BASE
  • Paul Hoilman, East Tennessee State - .421/.526/.860 line, with 25 home runs. Production like that is hard to ignore.
  • Jordan Ribera, Fresno State - Flashed power as a freshman and sophomore, but seems to have become a more complete hitter this year, allowing for him to flourish at the plate. Will need to develop more plate discipline to allow power to show as a pro
  • A.J. Kirby-Jones, Tennessee Tech - Huge home run and walk totals, both indicating intimidating power. Contact rate isn't too hot though, and the level of competition not the highest, but he intrigues me. I would definitely take a chance on him
SECOND BASE
  • Zack Cox, Arkansas - I am uneasy leaving Cox off my top 25 list. Most think he is one of the best hitters available in this draft. He has shown power and average in his college career, but at different times. He has been inconsistent, but constantly productive. One thing that is for sure is that Cox's defense is iffy, so his value is tied to his bat. I think it will be solid one way or another, but he has to put it all together to be an impact player, and he hasn't yet in college.
  • Phil Gosselin, Virginia - Seems to get overlooked despite good production in the ACC. I think his bat is plenty good enough for second base, though I'd like to see him shorten his stroke a bit and go ahead and accentuate his speed.
  • Jedd Gyorko, West Virginia - One of the more productive college hitters in the country, and he could go as high as the end of the first round. I'm not sure why. I love the production at the plate, but I don't love his swing, limited speed, and limited defensive ability. His bat probably has to make up for other deficiencies, and I don't see a bat necessarily special enough to do that. Jedd looks overrated to me at this point.
  • LeVon Washington, Chipola JC - Washington was drafted in the first round by the Rays last year, but didn't sign. I don't see why he is hyped as much as he is. His arm is weak, and defensive upside questionable at best. Washington's bat has to carry him, and I don't see enough out of it to fall in love with him, especially with some questions about his energy for the game. Some team will draft him earlier than I would.
  • Davis Duren, Oklahoma State - I haven't seen anyone talking about Duren, and that surprises me a little bit. He has good speed, and a developing bat that doesn't show much power, but a knack for contact. That's a skillset that plays well in the middle infield.
SHORTSTOP
  • Marcus Littlewood, Pine View HS (UT) - Littlewood is a name being strongly connected with the Mariners at pick 43. He is a switch-hitter, and his body has matured considerably in the past year. Many think he will be too big to stick at shortstop, but that's said of virtually every high school shortstop (and true more often than not). Few doubt his ability to be a good defender somewhere though, with soft hands. The little bit I saw of him on tape didn't do much to excite or discourage me, so I don't have much more to add on him. I would certainly support a grabbing a guy like him at pick 43, especially if a guy with Z's reputation thinks he can hit.
  • Josh Rutledge, Alabama - Most like Rutledge's defense, so if he hits at all, he has some value. I don't see much power, but he did post a solid contact rate despite swinging at too much. I doubt he will ever be a good hitter, but there is some stuff to work with there, especially if he provides good defense.
  • Rick Hague, Rice - Most think Hague is good enough defensively to stick at shortstop, which is a big plus. He also has some power, but his contact has been highly inconsistent. Rick has the talent to be a good shortstop, and so some team will draft him early. However, I question how likely it is that he reaches his "best-case scenario." I don't think it is wise to draft players purely on their ceilings, though it becomes a better and better idea the deeper into the draft a team goes.
  • Andrelton Simmons, Western Oklahoma State College - Simmons is a 19-year-old from Curacao, and has flashed some intriguing tools in summer leagues and junior college. His best tool is his arm, which makes him a potentially good defender at shortstop, and also an intriguing pitching prospect. In fact, many like him more as a late-inning reliever, and I am tempted to side with them too. However, Simmons also has good speed, and he has shown some signs of life at the plate. With how young and raw Simmons is, I feel like the bullpen will be an option for him a couple years down the road. I would like to see if he can become a great defensive shortstop, with enough hitting ability to both take advantage of his speed on the basepaths, and not kill his potential defensive value.
THIRD BASE
  • Phil Wunderlich, Louisville - Wunderlich was one of the final cuts from my top 25 list. His production has been excellent in an underrated baseball program. His meager 15 strikeouts with 20 home runs in 241 at-bats are particularly impressive. I think there should be more buzz around him than there is.
  • Yordy Cabrera, Lakeland HS (FL) - There is a good chance Cabrera goes in the first round, and there are tools to like. He can hit for power, and he is athletic enough to play shortstop for now. I worry about Yordy's ability to hit for consistent contact as he fills out his 6'4" frame, but he was still another one of the final cuts from my top 25 list. He ended up being just a little too tall with a little too long of a stroke for me to love his hitting potential - but don't get me wrong, I like it.
  • Kaleb Cowart, Cook County HS (GA) - I am curious to see where Cowart goes. The popular opinion is that Kaleb wants to be a hitter, but scouts want him to be a pitcher. He has done both in high school, and the fact that he could be a prospect as either says something about his talent. Personally, I definitely see him as a pitcher, mostly because I think his swing is pretty raw. His head moves a bunch, and that's not good for making consistent contact. If I were a team, I probably wouldn't draft him at all. What might be best for him would be to go to college and see what he wants to be three years from now.
  • Derek Dietrich, Georgia Tech - Dietrich might be a victim of his fairly lofty status as a prep star. He hasn't become what many thought he would be, but he is still a good prospect. I think he will be an adequate third baseman defensively, with solid power, contact, and baserunning from the left side of the plate.
OUTFIELD
  • Michael Choice, Texas-Arlington - Choice is probably going to be a top 10 pick, and I am a little uneasy leaving him out of my top 25. He has some power, and an absurd number of walks this year underscore his intimidating presence in the batter's box. However, he has also struck out a ton. I wonder if he is pressing at the plate, but he offers limited defensive value, and his production at the plate hasn't been eye-popping against mid-major competition. I'm not a huge fan of his stroke either, and his skillset profiles as one that decays in a hurry. Certainly, Choice could prove to be a quality slugger, but anything less diminishes his value in a hurry.
  • Bryce Brentz, Middle Tennessee State - I thought Brentz was going to be near the top of my draft board heading into this season, but a subpar junior campaign sunk him all the way out of my top 25. However, like Choice, he is likely to go early in the 2010 draft. Brentz battled an ankle injury, and there is a chance I lowered him way too much based on that. However, even once he got healthier, his numbers did not rebound as much as I was hoping for. Brentz provides more defensive ability than Choice, and I think he may be a better hitter too, even though there is a good chance he goes after him. I would still draft Brentz pretty early, but not as early as he is probably going to go.
  • Tyler Holt, Florida State - Holt has great speed, good defense, and a very good idea what he is doing at the plate. His skillset is built to be a good leadoff hitter. What downgraded him in my eyes was a lower contact rate this year than I expected, despite great plate discipline.
  • Kyle Parker, Clemson - Parker is also the starting quarterback at Clemson, but I think his future is clearly brighter in baseball. The power is undeniable, as well as the athletic ability. Parker whiffs quite a bit though, and that between questions over which sport he will choose kept him off of my top 25 board.
  • Josh Sale, Bishop Blanchett HS (WA) - Sale is the most noteworthy local prep product since Travis Snider. He is generally considered the best prep power bat available in this draft, and there are rumors swirling around him in the middle of the first round. I worry that his only real noteworthy tool is his power though. It looks to me like he has a skillset that can be found in a college bat, and college bats are safer bets to pan out. With that said, this is my first attempt to look at prep players, so I could be underrating how good his power is.
  • Austin Wates, Virginia Tech - Wates is a solid athlete with good hitting and baserunning ability. His athleticism suggests he could become a good defender, but he is yet to tap into that yet, which concerns me some. I don't think his bat is good enough on its own to get him to the majors.
  • Todd Cunningham, Jacksonville State - Cunningham looks great playing the game, and he performed well in the Cape Cod league last summer. However, his production did not stand out in a mid-major conference this past year, and it never has really. I think he got some good luck in the Cape Cod league over the summer, though I would still consider him in the second half of the first day.
  • Jarrett Parker, Virginia - Few, if any, match Parker's power/speed combination in this draft. The raw tools are tempting. However, he strikes out a ton, and that's not too surprising watching his long, loopy swing. He looks to me like a guy that will always tempt people with his obvious talent, but I never see him becoming a great hitter. His best bet to maximize his talent is to become very patient.
  • Mel Rojas Jr., Wabash Valley CC - The son of former MLB closer Mel Rojas Sr., the apple falls a little farther from the tree than you might think. The junior Rojas has tremendous speed, and knows how to use it. He is one of the better leadoff prospects in this draft, and his speed should also translate to good outfield defense. At only 20 years old, he is also a little younger than most college prospects.
RIGHT HANDED PITCHERS
  • Cameron Bedrosian, East Coweta HS (GA) - The toughest cut of my top 25 list. Bedrosian throws in the upper 90s, and has a couple breaking balls that he can throw for strikes. He also seems to pitch downhill pretty well, despite being rather short (6 feet tall). I love his aggressive mentality on the mound too.
  • Anthony Ranaudo, LSU - Ranaudo was supposed to be the best college pitcher in this draft, but some have come to their senses. The stuff is there, but the production and command are not. Somebody is going to draft this guy way too high. Sure, there is a chance he finds it, but I would rather take a big, projectable 18-year-old arm than a big, projectable, 21-year-old one.
  • Stetson Allie, St. Edward HS (OH) - Here is your big, projectable, 18-year-old flamethrower. Inconsistent command and mechanics, but if he irons it all out, watch out
  • Brett Eibner, Arkansas - I'm not nearly as high on this guy as most. He reminds me of Micah Owings - great hitter for a pitcher, or a great pitcher for a hitter. It's impressive, but I'm not sure it makes him a great pro player.
  • Dan Klein, UCLA - He has come back from a major arm injury quite well in relief. However, he was promising as a starter pre-injury, and still has a repertoire that could work well as a starter
  • Jordan Swagerty, Arizona State - Got some nasty stuff with good production out of the bullpen this year
LEFT HANDED PITCHERS
  • James Paxton, Grand Prairie (Independent) - Paxton was drafted last year, but didn't sign, and long story short worries over NCAA eligibility led Kentucky to tell him they couldn't accept him back for his senior season. It was a weird situation, but here he is, a year later. He's big and has thrown well into the 90s. The arm is great, but he got hit a bit harder than I would like to see at Kentucky. Still, he improved in college, and the pure stuff is enticing, especially from the left side.
  • Drew Smyly, Arkansas - Smyly is one of the better pitchers in the SEC this year, and he has shown great improvement. Both provide promise for success at the next level.
  • Kevin Chapman, Florida - Power arm with powerful numbers out of the bullpen. Definitely worth a high pick if he is another Arthur Rhodes
  • Cody Wheeler, Coastal Carolina - I like Wheeler, but not as much as most. His numbers just don't quite match the level of the top tier in this draft, even though he played against a little lesser competition than many of them. I think he is likely to go a bit higher than I would take him.
This is hardly an exhaustive list, but it gives a reason to pay attention beyond the first round. I will try to re-load the list of noteworthy players each day. Again, I am not as down on this draft as many are. The impact players appear to be lacking, but there is talent to be had.

    2010 Draft: My Top 25

    With the draft starting tomorrow, it is time to roll out my annual prospect list. This one, in many ways, has been my favorite to compile. For starters, I am very curious to see how my initial shot at rating high-schooler goes. I am optimistic about the younger guys on this list.

    However, even if I had limited myself to just college players, this list still might have been my favorite. It does not look like there are many stars to be had in this draft, but there is some depth. It is a question of which guys will iron out their flaws, or which flaws aren't bad enough to limit a player's success. I am uneasy about several guys I left off the list, as well some I included. It was fun trying to line these guys up in an order that felt pretty good.

    Here they are, the 25 prospects I like most in the 2010 MLB Rule 4 Draft:

    25. Dylan Covey, RHP, Marantha HS (CA) - Covey is drawing comparisons to current Dodgers righty Chad Billingsley, and rightly so. Both have similar body types, wind-ups, and repertoires. Dylan's best pitch is a curve ball, which is considered one of the best in the draft, period. He is slipping on most draft boards after a rough start recently, but I think some rough patches are to be expected as a younger player learns to command a big-time breaking ball. Covey's arm slot is straight over the top, which means most of his movement should be vertical. In other words, he is not the type that usually runs big splits between lefties and righties. Between that, a potentially devastating curve, and a mature body, there are good reasons to think that Covey will be an MLB starting pitcher.


    24. Jesse Hahn, RHP, Virginia Tech - Hahn's profile rose significantly last summer as a reliever in the esteemed Cape Cod League. His 6'7" frame seems built for power pitching, and the radar gun didn't lie, as he reached the upper 90s with his fastball time and time again. In college, Hahn is used as a starter, and he has put up good numbers in the ACC. The high strikeouts rates are there, as you would expect out of a power arm. However, he is a hit around just a bit more than you would like to see. Most think Hahn will end up in the bullpen, but I see enough in his breaking stuff to think he might be able to stick in the rotation with some tightening of his pitches and mechanics. Bottom line, there is definitely a spot in an organization for a power arm that has produced like Hahn.


    23. Micah Gibbs, C, LSU - Gibbs has pinballed all over my list, though there has never been much doubt he would make the final cut. The intrigue is obvious when you have a switch-hitting catcher that has shown some life in his bat in the SEC. However, how much life is there? To date, there has not been much power, but that could develop. Gibbs isn't overly patient at the plate either, but I was inclined to "blame" that on good plate coverage. However, his average has dipped considerably near the end of the year. I can see Gibbs becoming a quietly productive backstop for years to come, similar to Gregg Zaun, but I could also see him being a combination of parts that don't quite add up to a valuable ballplayer. Welcome to the type of quandaries that the 2010 draft is filled with.


    22. Asher Wojciechowski, RHP, The Citadel - Yes, I spelled Asher's name right (just double checked), and yes, he pitches for The Citadel! Like most any small school prospect, Wojciechowski has some awfully good numbers. However, he also pitched for the USA Baseball team last year, alongside all sorts of highly-regarded prospects, and more than held his own. He has a fastball that he throws in the 90s with good command, which isn't overly typical for a smaller school prospect. I like the way Asher goes after hitters, but I don't think his stuff is tremendous. As he gets to higher levels, I anticipate that he will be somewhat hittable. However, Wojciechowksi's whole package suggests that he is for real. I like his chances to become the type of starter that can be counted on for six solid innings almost every time he takes the mound.


    21. Kyle Blair, RHP, San Diego - Kyle is not to be confused with Seth Blair, an Arizona State pitcher also draft eligible this year (and a pitcher many regard higher than Kyle). A fastball-slider combo have been Kyle's bread and butter, and he has used them to overpower the West Coast Conference for the past three years, as well as the Cape Cod league this past summer. Blair's production has been eerily consistent for my taste, which makes me wonder if he is what he is at this point. However, in his defense, he has been awfully good. Ultimately, Blair's production and slider were too good to leave off this list. Unless Blair shows an uncanny feel for a new off-speed pitch (preferably a change-up), I would move him to the bullpen and fast-track him for the majors.


    20. Kolbrin Vitek, 3B, Ball State - Kolbrin has shown a little bit of everything in college. He has some speed, power, hitting ability, and even has quite a bit of pitching experience. Undoubtedly, he is a solid athlete, and along with that, his production has increased noticeably at Ball State. Vitek may progress even quicker once he focuses solely on hitting, and he appears to have the skills to be a good defender at a number of positions. It is hard to say what Vitek won't be able to do, but also hard to pinpoint a clear strength. I have some questions about his ability to consistently make good contact, but the athletic ability and track record of improvement are enticing.


    19. Rob Segedin, RF, Tulane - For me, Rob Segedin is a breath of fresh air. He is the type of guy I love to include on these lists. This year, for the Green Wave, Segedin's slash line is an absurd .434/.516/.788, with 33 walks and 20 strikeouts.  Furthermore, in limited chances with both USA Baseball and the Cape Cod league, Segedin has posted good numbers. Watching video of Segedin, I think he has one of the better strokes in this draft class. He looks to me like the kind of guy who sprays line drives all over the field. Although Segedin's future is with a stick in his hands, he has pitched quite a bit in college. This is why most project him as a third baseman or right fielder as a pro. I have gone with the latter, though I would at least see what he can do at third, because that would boost his value.


    18. Hunter Morris, 1B, Auburn - Morris has a gorgeous stroke from the left side with power, and that will be his ticket to the major leagues. He is a little aggressive for my taste, but I don't see big holes in his swing (both based on video and his numbers). He just needs to discern pitches he can smash from ones he can't to maximize his ability. Morris seems to be slipping on draft boards, and I can't find a good reason why. I think it is because there are fewer question marks around him than many others in this draft, so it might be a case of being out of sight and out of mind. It wouldn't surprise me if some team hasn't forgotten about him, and he goes higher than projected.


    17. Justin O'Conner, C, Cowin HS (IN) - As Bob Ross (the happy painter) might say, this is my bravery test. O'Conner is this high on my draft board purely on potential. I am not sold on his hitting ability, but I like his bat speed and balance at the plate. He certainly could develop into a pretty solid hitter. Justin has played mostly shortstop in high school, where his best tool by far has been his arm. That's why many, including me, see him as a catcher. Granted, O'Conner would be a significant project with how little he has played behind the plate. However, he wouldn't be any farther behind other backstops in calling games, because few do until they are in the pros. His pure arm strength is an obvious asset, and if he can defend, then he can make the majors without prodigious hitting ability. If Justin puts it all together behind the plate, he could be something pretty good. My theory is that he has some room for things to go wrong though, given how many tools he has that fit nicely behind the plate. That's what got him to this spot on the draft board as much as what could happen if all goes right.

    16. Chance Ruffin, RHP, Texas - ...And from one extreme of potential to the other. Not that Chance Ruffin has no potential, but there is not much hypothesizing to do about him. He has started and relieved in college, and shown some potential in both roles. Scouts seem to think that he is better suited for relieving, as does his college team apparently, since he has been the closer this year. Make no mistake, his numbers are insane as the closer, so he can certainly handle it. However, as with any pitcher, I like to see them prove that they cannot be a starter first. Ruffin has an assortment of pitches, which makes him unusual for a reliever, and could portend success as a starter. Either way, Ruffin is the son of big league pitcher Bruce Ruffin, has video game numbers in a major conference this year, and promising stuff. It is hard not to like that mix.

    15. Rob Rasmussen, LHP, UCLA - Rob first caught my eye with a big Cape Cod league, but looking at his college numbers coming into this year, I wondered if he had just been hot. Based on Rasmussen's production this year, he found something. Although undersized, Rasmussen can reach back with his fastball and dial it up well into the 90s, but deception and command will have as much to do with his success as arm strength. My biggest concern with Rasmussen is that he is a bit of a one-year wonder, especially considering that highly regarded arms Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole pitch ahead of him in the UCLA rotation (watch out for both of them in 2011, particularly Cole). The target was never on Rasmussen's back thanks to them. However, Rob's command has clearly improved this year, and it is hard not to want a lefty from the Pac 10 that has produced like him.


    14. Reggie Golden, OF, Wetumpka HS (AL) - Golden is the antithesis of a safe college pick. He is considered a classic five-tool talent, but raw. The scouting reports I have read generally agree that Reggie's raw power and speed are special, but his swing gets out of control, and he needs more seasoning in general to refine his skills. However, when I saw the video, I saw a couple things that make me think he is more capable than most of developing. First of all, his body is already well developed. He is 5'11" and stout. Golden's body should not fill out much more, which is probably the biggest reason scouts think he will not outgrow his speed. Second, Reggie's stroke is compact. He keeps two hands on the bat the whole time, and generates his power mostly through firming up his front side (a good thing) and twisting his core (also a good thing). I haven't seen anyone else as high on Golden as me, so I may be setting myself up for a Wily Mo Pena-sized letdown, but I think Golden's upper bound is Andruw Jones (in his prime), though Ron Gant is a more realistic comparison.


    13. Matt Harvey, RHP, North Carolina - Harvey was highly regarded out of high school, and in many ways, he is the same guy people liked back then. He still has an electric fastball, but he has not developed as much as you would like to see. His college career is marked by inconsistency, though this year has been quite good. Some of that inconsistency is likely due to his ongoing odyssey to find what breaking pitches work best for him. In the end, Harvey's arm is undeniably great, and he has shown an ability to shut ACC hitters down. He should be capable of finding a home in the back end of a bullpen at worst, and at the front of a rotation at best. It is a question of how consistently his best stuff will show up.


    12. Christian Colon, SS, Cal State Fullerton - Colon is another guy that has gone all over my draft board. As a member of the USA baseball team, he performed the best of any position player, pacing the team in home runs and stolen bases. However, the sample size in that setting is limited, and that's where the problems start. The production I would expect from a guy that put up sterling numbers in an international tournament are not there for Colon this year. However, the numbers aren't bad either. He has shown some speed, and some power, and has not struck out much (which I always like). Sometimes I wonder if Colon has a little bit of everything, or not enough of anything. It certainly helps that he plays a premium position, and in the end, I have decided to go with the law of large groups. Everyone considers him a safe bet, so if I go with that, I think he has a little bit of everything.


    11. Deck McGuire, RHP, Georgia Tech - McGuire is what he is, and that is a good-looking pitcher. He is 6'6" with a sturdy build. He has a body built for pitching. I worry some about command with taller bodies, but McGuire's walk rate is low, so no worries there. Deck doesn't have one pitch that stands out, but his overall mix is good, he knows what he is doing with his mix, and he throws strikes. I think he is close to a finished product, which means he could fly through the minors. That also means he may not get a whole bunch better than he is now though. It's hard to see McGuire being worse than a fourth starter, or better than a second one.


    10. Addison Reed, RHP, San Diego State - I think every draft board features a player that a particular person has fallen in love with. For me, it's this guy, Addison Reed. He got some attention as a sophomore last year, thanks largely to being the closer for Stephen Strasburg's team. Scouts couldn't help but notice his mid 90s heat out of the bullpen, and perfect save percentage. Of course, Strasburg moved on, and is now on the precipice of making the Nationals an attraction. Back at San Diego State, Reed was surprisingly moved from the bullpen into Strasburg's vacated ace role. Armed with a newly learned change-up to go with a fastball and slider, Reed has flourished. His fastball sits in the low 90s as a starter, and most agree that his slider isn't quite as sharp, but still effective. Reed's delivery is deceptive, and while he throws across his body, he doesn't stress his elbow, and he has exhibited plenty of command. Furthermore, the change-up gives him a legitimate off-speed offering for left-handers, which is probably why he has found surprising success as a starter. Reed shows no fear on the mound, and I am intrigued by his surprising results as a starter this year. Few doubt he could make the majors quickly as a reliever, but I like his upside as a starter too.


    9. Gary Brown, CF, Cal State Fullerton - Here is another guy that has given me fits throughout this process, and a guy that many are having a hard time deciding what they think about him. Brown's game is all about speed, and nobody doubts that he can (and will) run wild as a professional. It is everything else about him that is hard to figure out. His hitting has drawn mixed reviews, mostly around his questionable power, and questionable plate discipline. His stance is rather closed, and his swing seems to be geared towards slapping at the ball more than driving it. That's fine with me, given Brown's speed, as long as he hits enough line drives. Given his 20 doubles, 8 triples, and 6 home runs this year, I think he can hit enough line drives. However, what's even harder to figure out is Brown's plate discipline. It is non-existent; he has just 9 walks in 210 at-bats. However, he also is batting .438! Most worry that he is not patient enough to be a leadoff hitter, but for me the numbers are inconclusive. He also has only struck out 12 times, with the high batting average, and a good collection of extra base hits. Gary Brown, much more often than not, has swung at pitches he can square up. It just so happens that a ton of the pitches he has seen this year were worth swinging at, which indicates to me that he probably has good plate coverage. Lastly, there are also questions about Brown's defense. He has experience at second base and center field, but is pretty raw in both spots. I think his pure speed, along with experience and coaching, will allow him to be a good defender in center field. Ultimately, Brown's game, especially at the plate, is hard to project. Does his production and approach indicate great strengths or great flaws? It could be either, but I would not put him this high if I did not like what I see. Brown's speed alone is one of the best tools any player has in this draft, and he has a blend of skills that could make him an impact leadoff hitter. Best case scenario, I think he is a bit weaker version of Ichiro, and worst case I think he is more of a Scott Podsednik or Juan Pierre.


    8. Chris Sale, LHP, Florida Gulf Coast - Sale is another guy that has moved around my draft board a fair amount. He is intriguing in a couple ways. First of all, it's not every day an elite college pitcher is found at Florida Gulf Coast. Second, it's not every day a wiry 6'6" southpaw develops out of nowhere (Sale wasn't drafted in any round out of high school). It is easy to look at Sale's frame and think he will fill out, so many project him to throw harder as a pro. However, personally I would hope that Sale stays about as big as he currently is. His windup is a rather unorthodox sidearm motion, which doesn't stress his arm much, but is not conducive for good command. However, Chris's walk rates are quite low, and remained low against more advanced competition in the Cape Cod league over the summer. Since Sale can throw quality strikes from his arm slot, his throwing motion is probably his greatest weapon. It gives his pitches unique movement, and a level of deception that seems destined to destroy all lefties that face him. There is little doubt that Chris can be a devastating specialty lefty, but that isn't what got him this spot on my list, and it won't be what gets him drafted in the first round. His value is ultimately tied to how well he can get right-handers out with his stuff. I think his deception and command are good places to start, and with a decent change or two-seamer, he will be just fine.


    7. Alex Wimmers, RHP, Ohio State - Watch Wimmers snap off one of his curveballs, and you will want him on your team. It is an old-fashioned, over-the-top, slow-motion, 12 to 6 Uncle Charlie. It is gorgeous, and highly effective according to the numbers he has put up in the Big 10 throughout his career. His build and wind-up remind me of Roy Oswalt, but that's about where the comparisons stop. Wimmers also has a fastball, but it is not nearly as explosive as Oswalt's. Seriously, check out Alex's curveball in action. It's fun to watch.


    6. Barret Loux, RHP, Texas A&M - The consensus is that Wimmers is better than Loux, and I would not be surprised of Wimmers ends up being better. I have had a hard time separating these two pitchers. Loux doesn't have any one pitch as enticing as Wimmers's curve, but he has a mix of solid offerings that he knows how to use. He also has a bigger, sturdier build, and he uses it to pitch downhill. Combine that with slightly better production in a slightly better conference, and Loux goes slightly ahead of Wimmers on this list, despite the nostalgic allure I have for Alex's classic fastball-curve combo.


    5. Manny Machado, SS, Miami Brito HS (FL) - It is funny reading scouting reports about Machado. They all start out with something to the effect of "it is easy to look a tall, athletic prep shortstop out of Miami, and draw comparisons to Alex Rodriguez like many are, but that's unfair..." Truth be told, I am yet to find anyone that has called Machado the next A-Rod, but everyone seems to say that everyone else compares him to A-Rod. Frankly, the comparison is more valid than most are willing to admit. Machado's body type is similar to Rodriguez, and he emulates Rodriguez. Wouldn't you agree that his swing is eerily reminiscent of A-Rod's? There are the inevitable questions about whether Manny will outgrow shortstop, but he looks athletic enough to me to be given a chance. There are also questions about his speed, but the video linked to above shows him hitting a pair of triples. Machado probably won't blaze around the basepaths, but I think he is a victim of a smooth stride. He doesn't look like he is going very fast, even if he is. Everything about the way Machado plays baseball looks rather smooth and effortless. Watching video of him, I was constantly surprised at what he hit, how hard he hit it, how fast he got to the base, how hard he threw the ball, etc. Machado looks like a natural on the diamond, and his production and athletic ability back that up.


    4. Yasmani Grandal, C, Miami FL - Grandal has been near the top of my draft board from the beginning, and only cemented his spot as the season progressed. Out of high school, pro teams like Yasmani's defense, but wanted to see how much he would hit. In his three years at Miami, his hitting has come a very long way, to the point where he has arguably had the best season of any college hitter in the nation. A switch-hitting catcher with power potential and solid defense? Yes please, I'll take that. The biggest question mark with Grandal is if he can hit with wood. So far, he has not, and he has had some opportunities. In the end, I think the obvious progress he has made in college suggests that he has what it takes to make adjustments moving forward.


    3. Jameson Taillon, RHP, The Woodlands HS (TX) - If you ask me, Taillon has clearly established himself as the premier prep player in this draft class. In the past few weeks, some have voiced concerns over him being a little more hittable in high school this year than they thought he should be, and also their have been some concerns voiced over his signability. Taillon has a college commitment to Rice, and he is an honor student while taking honors classes, and his family is littered with graduate level (and beyond) college degrees. The kid is a legitimate student, and legitimately cares about his education. He also is 6'8" with a fastball that sits in the mid 90s, and "compliments" that with a power curve. Taillon's stuff is built for high strikeout totals, and those have followed him wherever he has pitched. I think some people are starting to miss the forest through the trees with Taillon, because the upside is obvious. Jameson has what it takes to become an ace, and the makeup, moxy, and polish to suggest that he can develop in the pro environment.


    2. Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Mississippi - For the past two or three weeks, it has been clear to me that Taillon would be my top-rated prep pitcher, and Pomeranz my top-rated college pitcher. Deciding who goes in front of the other has been very tough. Taillon undoubtedly has higher upside, but prep arms are such riskier picks than college ones. The tipping point for me was comparing Pomeranz's team USA numbers to Taillon's U-18 team USA numbers. Those are somewhat similar tournaments against similar pools of peers. Pomeranz and Taillon stood out in similar ways, with remarkably high strikeout rates. Throw in that Pomeranz is a left-hander, and the safer bet as a college prospect, and he got this spot. Drew had a slump near the end of the year that saw his stock drop, but he seems to have re-established his value. He never really lost much ground for me, because even a sub-par Pomeranz was able to go out and compete fairly well. Pomeranz's walk rate leaves a little to be desired, but he misses a ton of bats, and the contact against him isn't very solid. I can see him tossing similar lines to Scott Kazmir, back when Kazmir was good.


    1. Bryce Harper, RF, College of Southern Nevada - I don't know how I feel about a kid essentially dropping out of high school to pursue baseball at 16 years old, but this isn't the place to make that commentary. Purely from a scouting standpoint, it was an excellent move. This past year, Harper has sold me and the entire baseball world on how special he is. He has 29 home runs this year, while mostly using a wood bat, and playing against players mostly three to four years older than him. The previous home run record at College of Southern Nevada was 12, just to give some further context. Harper wasn't just good for a 17-year-old, he was clearly the best player on the field. Currently, Harper plays catcher, but I would move him to right field for a couple reasons. The first is his demeanor. Some have cited character issues, but I think that is way too harsh. Looking at Harper's body, swing, and decision to leave high school, there is no doubt that he is dedicated to the game. However, he is aware of his prodigious strength, and seems willing to flaunt it from time to time. I think that will mellow out some as he gets older, but the focus on his power from the media is only going to intensify as he works his way towards the majors. I think there is a good chance Harper will fall in love with it, and I don't think that's an attitude conducive to working well with a pitching staff. However, it is not a problem at all from the outfield, where his power and speed would be better preserved anyway, and his cannon for an arm would be a real asset too. Even though Harper is very young, he looks to me like someone who will fly through a minor league system, especially if he is moved off of catcher. The power, stroke, and body are already there. He just needs a little time to figure out more advanced pitching, and how to play whatever position he ends up at. Harper is the textbook definition of a phenom, and a no-brainer for the top spot on this list.

    I have to go with a final list at some point, so I am locking in now. Even as of a couple minutes ago, I was sliding some players around. Every draft has players that stand out in later rounds, but I think this one is especially susceptible to busts and surprises. The difference between pick 15 and pick 75 does not feel as big as it should be. With the character of this draft, I am almost thankful the Mariners had to give up their first round pick.